Aust poll goes down to the wire

Dylan Bushell-Embling
17 Aug 2010

With days to go until the national election, broadband remains a much-contested issue between Australia's two main political parties.

In a contest where both have adopted copycat policies on most issues, broadband has become one of the few points of differentiation.

Incumbent Labor is promising a fiber-based national network at a cost of up to A$43 billion ($39b) that will deliver 100Mbps to 90% of the population. The opposition wants to scrap this in favor of an A$6 billion wireless network offering at least 12Mbps to 92% of people.

NBN expert panelist Rod Tucker recently toldThe Australian newspaper that the plan might require thousands of new mobile towers – one every 500 meters in metro areas. He said the only way to promise 12Mbps is to bring fiber closer to the home.

However, Ovum's David Kennedy said the opposition's plan could be propped up by upgrading mobile operators' existing 3G networks.

The government’s gold-plated NBN plan also has its critics, with economist Christopher Joyce yesterday arguing that the costs would increase Australia's debt by 30%, and that these costs would be very difficult to recoup.

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